Taking on another Hall of Fame controversy, a warm BF&N welcome to Padraig Whelan…
This week, the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees for the summer’s ceremony were revealed.
A four-man group of Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman were the men selected to take up residency within the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame and the voting process always brings a great deal of interest and debate, with one particular item catching my attention on this occasion.
No, it wasn’t the continual will they-won’t they debate relating to infamous duo Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds, nor was it the surprise of seeing names like Kerry Wood picking up votes, with the pitcher having joked about his concern for writer’s jobs if they chose to select him. Rather, I found the controversy surrounding which cap would adorn the head of Vladimir Guerrero’s Hall of Fame plaque to be the most interesting topic of conversation.
He posted a massive 21.2% gain to take his total beyond the three-quarter threshold and up to 92.9% to deservedly take his place in the Hall of Fame. Few would have any reservations or doubts about his belonging there.
But it was his headwear which caused some interesting back and forth and proclamations, particularly across social media.
Guerrero is fortunate to be revered by the fanbases of both the Los Angeles of Anaheim and the now defunct Montreal Expos, and although the team may no longer exist, a passionate section of their supporters still certainly do.
The unconventional, yet exciting hitter spent eight years in Canada, where he achieved hero status quickly and perhaps played the best ball of his career, before one of the game’s great five-tool players moved on to LA, where he won an AL MVP award and reached the post-season on five occasions.
Anger, heartbreak, stunned, reeling. Those were just some of the words which could be used to describe the feelings of Expos fans the day after the HOF announcement, when Guerrero announced that he had opted to make his way in as the first Angel ever to grace Cooperstown.
“I toiled over this for a long time because the Canadian people meant a lot to me,” he said in a translated statement. I chose the Angels because of what it represented, what it represents now and all of the winning that happened when I was with them.”
Some Expos fans felt betrayed and hurt by the decision, much to my own particular surprise.
Of course, fan feeling towards a hero who they perceive may have slighted them in this decision is understandable.
But it did leave me wondering if the cap is truly that important, especially for a player who is held in such high regard by more than one fanbase. Surely, the main thing and something that everyone can get behind is, and what almost appeared to be lost in some scenarios, is that the *player* made it in.
To me, that is all that matters. It was a joyous occasion for Guerrero and his family and one which shouldn’t be clouded by any cap controversy.
This isn’t a new phenomenon either and cap-gate has been an issue which has cropped in the past and is likely to do so again in the future, although when Bat Flips and Nerds favourite Pablo Sandoval’s time comes to be elected, he could become the first to make it in with a traffic cone on his head.
Greg Maddux was famously so torn between his beloved Chicago Cubs where he made his name and the Atlanta Braves where he enjoyed the greatest success that he elected for no logo, not wanting to pick between either.
That may be lacking a certain sentiment in the eyes of some but it does mean that the focus is all on the player and his career, as opposed to what sits on his head. The Expos have been involved in previous cap notoriety when Gary Carter and Andre Dawson were both enshrined with the disbanded team’s logo, despite the latter’s insistence that he wanted to be remembered as a Cub.
It should be noted that the Hall of Fame now does ultimately have the final say on what a player will enter wearing, with player’s feelings taken into consideration as they were with Guerrero who admitted pushing for an Angels hat.
But that shouldn’t put him in any lesser standing with fans of the Expos as it is always going to be a difficult and ultimately very personal determination for a player to make.
Legends like Dennis Eckersley (and, indeed, Vlad’s fellow Expo Pedro Martinez – Ed.) have achieved iconic status with two teams and both the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics still hold him in the highest esteem.
The A’s also have Reggie Jackson to thank for helping them to early 1970s World Series wins but it was with the New York Yankees that he earned his Mr October moniker and he is still remembered fondly by both sets of fans.
The former went into the hall wearing an Oakland, while Jackson is in there proudly adorning that famous NYY logo.
It didn’t hurt their standing with fans and nor should it with Guerrero or any future stars who have captured the hearts in multiple cities.
What they gave to their clubs was important and not for one minute would I argue against that but so too was what they gave the game as a whole and that should be remembered.
And if not, well we get to enjoy the arguments all over in 2019.